For 20 years, Lisa Dennis has been part of a committee that selects the Best Books for Babies. Since the list’s inception, the significance of reading to infants has only increased.
“What we’ve learned about the way that we learn and the way our brains grow has made it more obvious that it’s important to start reading and talking and singing and playing with babies,” says Dennis, coordinator of the children’s collection at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s main branch in Oakland. “Before they can even understand our words, they are hearing the sounds and getting used to the notion that words mean things. It’s also just a nice way to spend time with your baby.”
Libraries across the country use the Pittsburgh-created Best Books for Babies list. Curated by local librarians and child experts, the list includes board books, lift-the-flap titles, and picture books nominated by panel members, area librarians and publishers.
Some of the criteria for Best Books selection includes:
- Books that are age-appropriate and aimed at babies from infants to 18 months old.
- Books that encourage interaction and participation, as well as feature engaging illustrations.
- Books that allow babies to start to learn about how words sound and start making connections to physical objects through reading.
“Reading books to children exposes them to more words and different words,” Dennis says, “Basically, the building blocks of learning to read many years later are laid with the reading-out-loud experience.”
And she says it should be a fun experience for all.
“Sharing books with babies is something that fits into your day,” Dennis says. “You never want to read because it feels like a chore to you and your child. It’s supposed to be fun, but it’s tremendously important in developing the early literacy skills that will allow the child to learn to read later.”
The 2020 Best Books for BabiesBaby Day (Atheneum) by Jane Godwin and Davina Bell, illustrated by Freya Blackwood. Celebrate the first birthday in words and colorful pictures.
Baby Dream/Sonando Con Bebe (Barefoot) by Sunny Scribens; Baby Food/Comiendo Con Bebe (Barefoot) by Stefanie Paige Wieder; Baby Play/Jugando Con Bebe (Barefoot) by Skye Silver; all translated by Maria Perez. These board books show babies smiling, eating and waving in black-and-photographs.
Beep Beep = Piip Piip, (Candlewick) by Petr Horacek. A visit to grandma’s house is rendered in brightly colored, shaped pages. In English and Spanish.
I Love All of Me (Cartwheel) by Lorie Ann Grover, illustrated by Carolina Buzio. From “wiggly toes” to “smelly nose,” all the ways babies see themselves are told in catchy rhymes.
Jump! (Gecko) by Tatsuhide Matsuoka. This board book features leaping animals that look like they are flying off the page.
Love You Head to Toe (Owlkids) by Ashley Barron. Babies are compared to animals in fun and cheery rhymes.
Shapes (Little Bee) by Jane Cabrera. This book is filled with cutout-shaped animal pictures that are fun to touch.
Touchwords: Clothes (Chronicle) illustrated by Rilla Alexander. Articles of clothing are shown with related words using simple pictures.